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Male joggers, cyclists, less likely to get cancer – Swedish cohort study

Researchers in Sweden say that fitter men – joggers, swimmers and cyclists – could reduce their risk of nine cancers, but slightly raise their risk of skin cancer, after a study that tracked more than 1m men over 33 years.

They found that men with good cardiorespiratory fitness are far less likely to develop cancers of the head and neck, stomach, pancreas, liver, bowel, rectum, kidney, lung and oesophagus.

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, had followed the progress of men who were conscripted to military service in Sweden between 1968 and 2005, reports The Independent.

At the start of their conscription, the men underwent a battery of tests assessing various factors including their height, weight, blood pressure, muscle strength and cardiorespiratory fitness.

During the follow-up period, about 84 000 developed cancer.

Compared with those who had low cardiorespiratory fitness, the men with a higher level of cardiorespiratory fitness were:

• 19% less likely to develop head and neck cancer;
• 39% less likely to develop cancer of the oesophagus;
• 21% less likely to develop stomach cancer;
• 40% less likely to have liver cancer;
• 18% less likely to develop bowel cancer;
• 5% less likely to develop cancer of the rectum;
• 20% less likely to develop kidney cancer;
• 42% less likely to develop lung cancer; and
• 12% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer.

“These results could be used in public health policymaking, further strengthening the incentive for promoting interventions aimed at increasing (cardiorespiratory fitness) in youth,” the authors wrote.

However, the research – led by the University of Gothenburg – found that higher cardiorespiratory fitness was linked to a slight (7%) increased risk of prostate cancer and a 31% increased risk of skin cancer.

A previous study examining the same data set suggested the slight increase in risk for prostate cancer was not linked to a higher rate of aggressive prostate cancer or prostate cancer death, and could be attributable to increased screening.

The authors suggested a higher skin cancer rate could be due to “higher UV exposure”.

Study details

Associations between cardiorespiratory fitness in youth and the incidence of site-specific cancer in men: a cohort study with register linkage

Aron Onerup, Kirsten Mehlig, Agnes af Geijerstam, Elin Ekblom-Bak, Hans Georg Kuhn, Lauren Lissner, Maria Åberg, Mats Börjesson.

Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in August 2023


To assess the associations between cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) in young men and the incidence of site-specific cancer.

A Swedish population-based cohort study with register linkage of men who underwent military conscription in 1968–2005 was undertaken. CRF was assessed by maximal aerobic workload cycle test at conscription. Cox regression models assessed linear associations and included CRF, age, year and site of conscription, body mass index and parental level of education. CRF was also categorised into low, moderate and high for facilitated interpretation and results comparing high and low CRF are reported.

Primary analyses were performed in 1 078 000 men, of whom 84 117 subsequently developed cancer in at least one site during a mean follow-up of 33 years. Higher CRF was linearly associated with a lower hazard ratio (HR) of developing cancer in the head and neck (n=2738, HR 0.81, 95% CI 0.74 to 0.90), oesophagus (n=689, HR 0.61, 95% CI 0.50 to 0.74), stomach (n=902, HR 0.79, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.94), pancreas (n=1280, HR 0.88, 95% CI 0.76 to 1.01), liver (n=1111, HR 0.60, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.71), colon (n=3222, HR 0.82, 95% CI 0.75 to 0.90), rectum (n=2337, HR 0.95, 95% CI 0.85 to 1.05), kidney (n=1753, HR 0.80, 95% CI 0.70 to 0.90) and lung (n=1635, HR 0.58, 95% CI 0.51 to 0.66). However, higher CRF predicted a higher hazard of being diagnosed with prostate cancer (n=14 232, HR 1.07, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.12) and malignant skin cancer (n=23 064, HR 1.31, 95% CI 1.27 to 1.36).

We report a number of protective associations between higher CRF in healthy young men and the subsequent hazard of site-specific cancers. These results have implications for public health policymaking, strengthening the incentive to promote health through improving CRF in youth.


British Journal of Sports Medicine article – Associations between cardiorespiratory fitness in youth and the incidence of site-specific cancer in men: a cohort study with register linkage (Creative Commons Licence)


The Independent article – Men can cut the risk of nine cancers with certain exercises, study finds (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


High Intensity Training regimen may inhibit prostate cancer growth — ERASE trial


Short bursts of activity can cut cancer risks – Australian cohort study
Daily 11-minute walk reduces early death risk – UK meta-analysis


Running as little as 50 minutes a week significantly lowers death risk


Sedentary behaviour independently predicts cancer mortality









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